During a week of away games, the Libby High School boys basketball team came away with a 54-49 win at Eureka for the Battle of the Kootenai and a 60-52 loss at Polson.
At Eureka, the Loggers were missing junior forward Keith Johnson, and had other players who were also dealing with the flu but able to play, said Libby Head Coach Josh Bean.
“Sometimes you’ve got to win when the chips are down and you’re hurtin’ a little bit, and I thought they did a nice job of finding a way to win,” Bean said.
Bean complimented freshman Caden Williams, who started against Eureka in Johnson’s place.
Williams came up with 10 rebounds, evenly split offensive and defensive, and 14 points, including two 3-point shots and two-for-two on free throws.
“That’s a big thing for a freshman, going from playing a role-player position coming off the bench,” Bean said. “I thought he did a good job with it.”
But Bean said that not having Johnson still showed overall as the Loggers struggled with rebounding.
Libby jumped on the Lions early, he said, and were up 9-0 before the middle of the first quarter.
But Eureka managed to fight their way back late in the quarter, 9-8, and during the second quarter pushed out to a six-point lead. The Loggers had a narrow lead again by halftime, 26-25.
The remainder of the game was back and forth between Libby and Eureka until the final minutes.
Bean said Libby was able to get senior Ryggs Johnston to the free throw line in the final minute and a half, where he gave them a five-point lead they held to the end.
Johnson was back playing against Polson, but a rough first quarter hurt the Loggers and they couldn’t recover.
The Pirates outscored Libby 18-11 in the first quarter and 14-10 in the second. Libby had the upper hand after the half, outscoring Polson 18-17 in the third quarter and 13-11 in the fourth.
Giving up those 18 points in the first quarter, the Loggers had a struggle ahead of them to come back, Bean said.
“It makes it tough to win — I mean, you can still win, but it makes it tough. You’ve almost got to play perfect the rest of the way if you’re going to give up that many points in a quarter,” he said.
Libby was hit hard by by turnovers, especially in the first half, he said.
“They got us stirred up early, and they were a lot more active and energized early in their press,” Bean said. “They’re good with what they run. They’re real methodical with what they run, especially offensively.”
After ending the third quarter down by ten, Libby was able to get within six points of Polson during the fourth, but the Polson offense helped slowed the game and they ran out the clock in the final minutes.
“We told them at timeout that we’ve got to get up and we’ve got to get the ball, and we didn’t do that,” Bean said. The repetitive continuity offense from the Pirates helped to keep Libby locked at 52 points in the final minutes.
While the Loggers came back in the second half, there were still some missed opportunities.
“I thought, when we settled down and ran what we were supposed to, we were good and got good looks — whether or not they went in, that’s another thing,” Bean said. “We just didn’t execute our stuff very well. We didn’t do what we were supposed to enough.”
But Johnson still managed a standout performance at Polson. He scored 20 points with eight rebounds and went four-for-eight at the free throw line. He also only missed four shots from the floor.
“Keith did have a really good night. He pretty much single-handedly kept us in the game with his offensive rebounding and put-backs,” Bean said.
The Loggers play next at Ronan tonight, with varsity starting at 7 p.m. They play at home Saturday, when they will host Whitefish at the Ralph Tate Memorial Gym, with junior varsity at 2:30 p.m. and varsity at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 8
Battle of the Kootenai
Libby 54, Eureka 49
L: 9 17 12 16 - 54
E: 8 19 10 12 - 49
Libby: JJ Davis 8 points, 0-1 FT; Chandler Bower 5 points; Ryggs Johnston 21 points, 6-9 FT; Jay Beagle 2 points, 0-1 FT; Caden Williams 14 points, 2-2 FT; Kevin Barnes 4 points
Eureka: Alex Lowe 4 points; Corbin Hurst 2 points; AJ Pacella 5 points, 0-1 FT; Quade Anderson 9 points, 0-2 FT; Cory Chaney 10 points, 0-2 FT; Joey Kindel 9 points; Jake Kindel 10 points, 2-2 FT
Saturday, Jan. 12
Libby 52, Polson 60
L: 11 10 18 13 - 52
P: 18 14 17 11 - 60
Libby: JJ Davis 3 points; Chandler Bower 2 points, 2-2 FT; Ryan Goodman 2 points; Ryggs Johnston 18 points, 4-5 FT; Caden Williams 7 points, 2-2 FT; Keith Johnson 20 points, 4-8 FT